As long as you plan carefully you should be able to get all the vitamins, minerals, protein, and other nutrients that you and your baby need by eating healthy vegetarian dishes during your pregnancy. It just takes a little extra planning and the more restrictive your diet is, the more careful you need to be to ensure your baby will get everything they need.
A Vegan diet is very restrictive so you will need to have a chat with your doctor or midwife and they may like to check your levels of vitamin B12 and Iron.
It’s important for you to make sure that you have something from each of the main food groups every day. The main food groups are:
Starchy carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, rice and potatoes
Base your meals around starchy foods. Choose wholegrain and brown varieties as they’ll fill you up and are higher in fibre.
Fruit and vegetables
These can be fresh, frozen, tinned or dried. Try to have five portions a day. Include a variety of different colours – the more colours the more variety of nutrients you will get. You can count a glass of fresh juice as one portion per day but any more than this will not count towards your 5 a day.
Choose low fat varieties where possible as they will contain just as much calcium but less saturated fat.
Protein-rich foods, such as eggs, pulses, nuts and seeds.
These foods are also good sources of iron. If you eat fish – try to include fish in your diet 1-2 times per week with at least one of these being oily fish. Oily fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which will support baby’s brain development.
It’s important to make sure you are getting enough iron, calcium and omega-3 fats.
Try to have these good sources of iron every day:
- fortified breakfast cereals
- green leafy vegetables e.g spinach and broccoli
- wholemeal bread
Having foods or a drink rich in vitamin C with meals that contain non-haem iron (most often the type of iron found in non meat sources) can actually help your body to absorb iron so include tomatoes, peppers or a glass of orange juice when eating these iron rich foods.
If you drink milk you do not have to worry as the best sources of calcium are dairy foods. During your pregnancy you need three portions of dairy foods a day. This could be:
- milk on cereal for breakfast
- a yoghurt with your lunch
- a matchbox-sized piece of cheese after dinner
- Toasted cheese sandwich
And remember, Skimmed and Low Fat milk contain as much calcium as whole milk.
You can get also get small amounts of calcium from non-dairy sources, such as dark green vegetables, sesame seeds and fortified soya products. However, it’s harder for your body to absorb the calcium from these foods, so if you don’t eat dairy foods at all, it is a good idea to take a supplement.
Omega – 3 Fatty acids
The best source of omega-3 is oily fish such as salmon, trout or tuna.
Omega 3 fatty acids support your baby’s brain and eye development. The best source of omega-3 is oily fish such as salmon, trout or tuna. If you do not eat fish, you may want to take a fish oil supplement as the omega-3 fatty acid DHA is only found in oily fish. Don’t take supplements made from fish livers, such as cod liver oil. These contain the retinol form of vitamin A, which is best avoided during pregnancy. So ask for advice from your pharmacist and choose a supplement which is not made from fish livers. There are a few vegetarian sources of other types of omega-3 fats which you should also try to include – the best sources are rapeseed oil, linseeds and walnuts.
If you would like more information contact our Careline and we’ll be happy to talk to you about your dietary requirements.